Group Calls Sierra Ski Resorts’ Safety Into Question

SODA SPRINGS (CBS13) — The ski season in the Sierra is beginning as several ski resorts plan to open this week.

And while some people are eager to hit the slopes, one group wants visitors to know California resorts could do better to keep them safe.

“They are very inconsistent in the way they mark hazards,” said Richard Penniman, the lead researcher for the Snow Sport Safety Foundation.

He authored a report card that shows a lack of uniform safety plans, speed controls, and injury data collection by more than a dozen Sierra resorts.

“The signing and control of traffic and slowing people down needs to be improved a lot,” explained Penniman.

The overall score for all of California Resorts was a “C.” Kirkwood, Dodge Ridge, and Soda Springs have some of the highest scores.

Boreal, China Peak, and Donner Ski have some of the lowest.

“They’re businesses, and they don’t want to be held to standards if they don’t have to be,” said Penniman.

“We really don’t frankly even really recognize or acknowledge the legitimacy of the report card,” said Michael Reitzell.

He is the head of Ski California, which represents nearly every mountain resort in the state.

“It’s truly just one person’s view on snow sports safety,” said Reitzell.

He says the criteria in the report isn’t accepted in the industry or believed to provide viable information about ways to improve safety on the slopes. Instead, resorts use a series of best practices, that have been generated over decades of operation, he says.

“Our resorts make safety paramount on a daily basis,” said Reitzell.

Snow sports have inherent risks, but safety shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the guest, but the resorts as well, Penniman says.

“They’re starting to recognize that they have a shared responsibility in slope safety,” said Penniman.

Last week, Ski California released a first-of-its-kind mountain safety guide. The pamphlet is filled with best practices, pointers and skier responsibilities. The informational guide can be picked up at almost any ski lodge.

More from Drew Bollea
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